Monday, March 15

Who are the Barbarians? - Tzvetan Todorov



When I was at college I learned from Tzvetan Todorov some important aspects of the fantastic reading his book: "The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre".
By that time two of my favorites writers, Julio Cortázar and Jorge Luis Borges, were classified as fantastic and Gabriel Garcia Marques was translated to many languages.
But it is not about his work as literary theorist that I want to share with you. It is about his work as a deeply concerned man that is writing books to try to make some sense in the way the world is being conducted.
He has published "Fear of the Barbarians: beyond the clash of civilizations" that will be released in English next month. These are some of the subjects he approaches:





"But who are these barbarians? Tzvetan Todorov questions Claude Levi-Strauss’ definition of the barbarian as “the man who believes in barbarism” and suggests: “It is someone who believes that a population or an individual is not fully human and therefore merits treatment that he would resolutely refuse to apply to himself.” In his recent The Fear of Barbarians (10), Todorov develops an argument he presented in earlier works such as On Human Diversity (a thought-provoking book that deserves to be far more widely read). “The fear of barbarians,” he writes now, “is what is in danger of turning us into barbarians. And the evil that we do will far exceed what we initially fear.
Only the individual who fully recognizes the humanity of others can be called civilized." (emphasis mine)
Keep reading.
"These conceptual tools enable him to shed fresh light on the current struggle against terrorism and the tensions between communities within Western countries. He invites us to overcome our fears - for fear is a dangerous motive and risks producing an evil that is worse than the evil we initially feared.
Richly illustrated with examples ranging from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to the murder of Theo Van Gogh and the Danish cartoons, this powerful plea for civilized values will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the key challenges facing the world today." (emphasis mine)
And this is a translation from a video at Youtube:
"... culturally a nation is never something perfectly homogeneous. It's made by women and men, young and old people, rich and poor, people of profiles totally differents.
You and me during a day we change languages three or four times. We speak differently to our neighbors, to children's at schools, in front of our students, in the television... without any problem. We have to stop living in the illusion that culture have to be the same for everybody. (emphasis mine)


In reality there is no religious war. Wars have always political reasons. Combats for power, for wealth, demographic reasons, because of the country's resource, but religion is only the mask that we give to these combats because it mobilizes deep strengths of each and everybody."
I did the translation from French of these two excerpts. He speaks English and I don't understand why there is not a single video in English.


"It's through fear that the most unacceptable actions are carried out"
Tzvetan Todorov

4 comments:

DB said...

"He who laughs at another creature's sufferng had better be prepared tolaugh at his own."

Something, ideed, the fearing and fear making cave men of our own current governments don't understand is their own barbarianism.

DB

Ana said...

I don't understand their aims and what is behind of governments decisions.
All I know is that they no longer, if ever, think about their citizens.
This is very strange.
Thank you for the comment DB!
Love,
Ana

georgeumbrasileiro said...

Hi Ana, tried replying to your comment on my Youtube channel, but for some reason it wouldn't let me. Found your blog then a noticed that although you write in English, you actually come from Brazil, just like me, so I suppose you might live abroad, just like me... Anyway, re. your comment, I uploaded that excerpt just to make a point regarding relationships between grammar and conceptualisations here:
http://georgeumbrasileiro.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/association/
I like your blog, by the way.
George

Ana said...

Hi George!
No. I'm in Brazil. I saw the video in many different profiles.
I din't know it was yours I left.
I'm visiting your blog.
I'm very happy to find a Brazilian!
:)
Ana